Queering Mennonite Literature: Archives, Activism, and the Search for Community

Book, 2020, 172 pp
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Though the terms “queer” and “Mennonite” rarely come into theoretical or cultural contact, over the last several decades writers and scholars in the United States and Canada have built a body of queer Mennonite literature that shifts these identities into conversation. In this volume, Daniel Shank Cruz brings this growing genre into a critical focus, bridging the gaps between queer theory, literary criticism, and Mennonite literature.

Cruz focuses his analysis on recent Mennonite-authored literary texts that espouse queer theoretical principles, including Christina Penner’s Widows of Hamilton House, Wes Funk’s Wes Side Story, and Sofia Samatar’s Tender. These works argue for the existence of a “queer Mennonite” identity on the basis of shared values: a commitment to social justice, a rejection of binaries, the importance of creative approaches to conflict resolution, and the practice of mutual aid, especially in resisting oppression. Through his analysis, Cruz encourages those engaging with both Mennonite and queer literary criticism to explore the opportunity for conversation and overlap between the two fields.

By arguing for engagement between these two identities and highlighting the aspects of Mennonitism that are inherently “queer,” Cruz gives much-needed attention to an emerging subfield of Mennonite literature. This volume makes a new and important intervention into the fields of queer theory, literary studies, Mennonite studies, and religious studies.

“Close to the bone and out on a limb, Daniel Cruz asks what Mennonite and queer have in common. The answer is traumatic bodily memories, dissent, and dreams of just and loving relationships. Critical necessity and personal urgency compel his readings of nine authors to demonstrate that ‘Mennonitism is queer,’ and prophetic provocations speak from the intersection of these minoritized identities.”—Julia Spicher Kasdorf, author of The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life

“Early in this provocative and illuminating book, Daniel Shank Cruz observes that literature provides the space that allows us ‘to begin reconciling the identities of queer and Mennonite.’ He populates his fresh, richly documented analysis with a memorable array of writers and texts, all the while offering his readers a timely and compelling archive of queer memory in the context of Mennonite literature and life.”—Hildi Froese Tiessen, coauthor of Woldemar Neufeld’s Canada: A Mennonite Artist in the Canadian Landscape, 1925-1995

“Queering Mennonite Literature is both entirely new and long overdue in the field of Mennonite literary studies. It is the first collection of literary criticism that analyzes the small but burgeoning field of queer Mennonite creative writing. This book feels new because the major works it discusses (mostly novels) are all recent, published between 2008 and 2017. It also feels long overdue because, as the author notes, there have been queer people and queer impulses in Mennonite spaces forever, and it is past time to bring these perspectives into the wider conversation in Mennonite literary and theological circles.”—Anita Hooley Yoder, Conrad Grebel Review

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